CollegeMontana Grizzlies


'Championship-level effort': Montana Grizzlies wrap up spring session, head toward offseason

Montana Grizzlies Spring Game
Posted at 4:32 PM, Apr 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-15 19:16:22-04

MISSOULA — Spring football wrapped up for the Montana Grizzlies last week as UM competed in its annual spring game.

The game gave viewers a brief glimpse into what the Grizzlies have been working on since their run to the FCS national championship concluded back in January.

"Just in terms of spring practices, I thought it was kind of superior to some I've been around," UM head coach Bobby Hauck said. "Thought the work was great. But I think the most important thing was we had a lot of individual improvement.

"There are a lot of guys on our team that got better. Like the vast majority of players on our team got better this spring, which, it doesn't matter who that is. It's just the group individually is getting better, which makes your team better."

The game also gave the new transfers a chance to suit up in front of Griz fans for the first time. Expectations are high for new defensive tackle Pat Hayden from Monmouth as he played well. Fresno State quarterback Logan Fife showcased his arm, while Arizona transfer running back Stevie Rocker Jr. scored a pair of touchdowns and had a big day overall, to name a few.

"We definitely grew as an offense and as a unit," UM redshirt sophomore quarterback Kaden Huot said. "The O-line working on their game, receivers working on their game, we're working on our game and the running backs too, and when we put that together, I feel like we do good. And it's been good this spring, and we've been just doing what coach (Brent) Pease asked, and it's been working."

Heading into the offseason, the quarterbacks will take center stage again as a storyline to watch.

Redshirt freshman Keali'i Ah Yat drew the game's first reps, and he's expected to compete with Fife, along with veteran Sam Vidlak who started in three games last year, and Huot, who hasn't played much yet but performed well in the spring game.

"It was good," said Huot, a Helena High alum. "I was doing all the signaling and stuff like that. And it was definitely a growing moment for me, because, you know, I'm working with the plays and stuff and it's making me learn and see what the offense is seeing. And yeah, it helped me a lot."

Whoever steps in under center will lead a loaded offense, as Montana brings back talent at wide receiver, running back, tight end and a veteran offensive line.

Defensively, the questions are in who will step up to fill roles, as UM looks to replace seven starters from last year and more within the two-deep.

One player who might be called upon is TJ Rausch, who had returned an interception for a touchdown on Friday.

"Everybody's always locked in," said Rausch, a redshirt junior who moved from safety to corner this spring. "When you make a mistake, you got to just go play your hardest and just keep working. Those guys ... just taught me a lot about how you just go and play.

"I mean, you can't control everything that happens and you've just got to go put in work and do the best you can and then it's the next-play mentality."

Hauck liked what he saw from his program this spring and how they jumped back into the grind after last year's run to the championship.

Now they head into the summer and eventually open the season on Aug. 31 against Missouri State at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.

"We got a standard to live up to now here," Rausch said. "So it's every day we got to have a championship-level effort and nothing less than that. So the effort definitely and tempo has been elevated."